Part two of our prologue begins as Reginald finds himself unwittingly and unwillingly inducted into a savage rite of combat by primitive Pacific islanders. Can he possibly survive long enough to have already appeared in the first two chapters which we've already read? It seems unlikely!
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I found myself separated from my father and my guide, both of whom looked on with considerable distress at the dire straights which fate had guided me into. All around me, short, sweaty men stood about me, looking upon me with an air about them which bespoke hostility less than it did a fierce expectation. This latter I would under ordinary circumstances have been quite comfortable with, but my calm in this respect was somewhat marred by the fact that I did not for the life of me know what was expected of me.
A dozen or more of the islanders who surrounded me had their fists raised in what I recognized as their "Koolookoo" stance, and yet, though each of them breathed heavily and was plainly quite agitated in their own way, not a one of them made a move to strike me. I looked about to my left and my right, desperately hoping that I would see some sign - some gesture, some movement, some written instructions - SOMETHING - to indicate what I was to do. All the while, I was busy shedding my jacket, my tie, my cummerbund, my waistcoat, my dinner gloves and my top hat, placing my spectacles upon the ground at my feet and adjusting my cufflinks for maximal ease of movement and dexterity. All the while, an elderly villager who I had taken to be some sort of headman or witch-doctor or some such was chanting in a low, guttural voice. I noticed, to my surprise, that not only were the men in the circle surrounding me swaying about in time with his chanting, so too did I seem to be. What witchcraft was this, that I should be compelled to such alien movements by nothing more than the sight of a dozen other men doing exactly likewise in the presence of a compelling rhythm? I knew then - if it had ever been in any doubt - that there was indeed foul magic at play here, and I would be its helpless victim if I allowed myself to be.
Well, I was having none of that. I turned to my guide, who stood well outside the circle of men, but was watching the proceedings with rapt attention. I shouted at him "What in the name of the Lord's bastard son Jesus is that old one chanting? I require you to make use of your knowledge of his monkey-tongue, dash it all!" I shook my fist at him so as to convey to him the violence I intended to inflict upon him if I should be beaten to death by these natives, and as I did so, I noticed with a start that the savages which stood between he and I seemed half-prepared to lunge at me like cobras, in the admittedly unlikely scenario that these cobras were to be magically transformed, perhaps by some island curse, into island men who were versed in the art of Mookalakapeekapo.
The guide, quite cowed by my threats, stammered in incoherent dread for a few moments before beginning to repeat, hoot-for-hoot and grunt-for-grunt, the chant of the witch-doctor, thus conjuring a sort of echo-like effect which, although not altogether unpleasant, was sadly altogether useless to me. I shouted at him once more, this time taking care to keep my posture essentially neutral towards my tormentors, lest - like the wild dogs they all-too-closely resembled - they should descend upon me as a pack. "In English, blast your eyes! Tell me what he is saying in the king's good English!"
My guide looked startled, his eyes betraying an air of confusion and perturbation. "Sir", he shouted uncertainly, plainly trying not to offend with his correction, "surely it's plain that he is saying nothing at all in English! That is his own native tongue he is chanting in!"
I had to grant him this point, though I would have rather shined the devil's own shoes for a nickel than admit this to him. Instead, composing myself so as to mask my embarrassment at having been caught out by him so, I replied "I had rather hoped for something more in the nature of a translation!"
"Well, you should have said so, sir!"
"Yes, I suppose I should have been somewhat more precise! I can see now that I was insufficiently clear in my intent!"
"It takes a big man to admit that, sir!"
"Yes, rather!", I shouted, raising my voice still further. The village witch doctor's chanting was becoming increasingly loud and insistent, and it was becoming ever more difficult to make myself heard over him. I shot him a dirty look, as though asking him to pipe down a bit so that I might carry on my conversation like a civilized man, and was lucky to do so, as in that moment, one of the savages standing behind me took a savage swing at me which I would have failed to notice otherwise. As it was, I was able to dodge only to the extent that I took the blow upon my shoulder rather than my firm, patrician nose. Shielding my face from further assault with my forearms, I shouted at my guide and clarified my point yet further: "Now, if you would be so kind as to translate his gobbledygook into English...!"
"Ah, yes! Of course, sir! It's a sort of invocation to action, sir! Some of the concepts are too foreign to translate precisely, but if I were to provide a crude notion of their intent, it would go somewhat along these lines: 'Fight! Fight! Fight!'. If I might be so bold as to offer an opinion, sir, I believe they intend you to do battle with them!"
"Very good," I replied, frowning tightly. "I feel I would surely be lost here without this keen insight into their motives."
The guide beamed at me, positively radiating with job satisfaction. "Thank you, sir!" he replied, evidently without expression nor comprehension of guile.
I turned my attention once more to the savages surrounding me, each of whom seemed to have grown ever more savage in mein, baring their teeth at me in sinister grins, perspiration now beading heavily upon their bare skin with barely-contained enthusiasm. My odds, I had to allow, seemed rather on the long side here. However potent these islanders might have seemed, though, the fact remained that they were yet primitive beasts without the wits of modern man, and thus it was not impossible that I might yet gain the upper hand in the struggle to come by means of my towering English intellect. I shouted at my guide "Quickly, now! I need to convince them that I am a god, come among them to teach them the folly of their ludicrous foreign ways! What do I need to say in order to convey to them a sense of their innate inferiority and heathen barbarism?"
"An excellent plan, sir!", he shouted, clapping his hands together in a manner which would have seemed charming if demonstrated by a five year old girl on Christmas morning. "Simply repeat after me!" He then let loose a string of hoots and grunts in the islanders' native tongue, which I struggled to memorize, their beastly syllables like a tarnish upon my sterling mind.
As ingenious as my plan was, though, it seemed I had underestimated their low animal cunning; it was with some considerable distress that I saw them turn their eyes en masse towards my guide, and then back towards me, their look of feral rage replaced with what I would, in thinking men, have called amusement. Too late I realized the flaw in my ruse; against all odds, they had managed to discern the intent behind my guide's shouted words in their own language, and my brilliant deception was in a moment undone. I knew with shattering clarity in that moment that if I were to make an escape, it could only be now, while their aggression was momentarily leavened by their tittering reaction. I lunged for a space betwixt two of them, shielding my face with my arms as I did so, valiantly striving for the freedom which was my birthright.
Too late, though! Too slow! The legends of the deadly art of Mookalakapeekapo were all too true, as I learned to my horror and dismay. Faster than the eye could discern the transition, their laughter transmuted itself into aggression once more, their fists arching once again over my head like a ring of five-fingered, sweaty swords of Damocles, and then like lightning fell upon me. Stars seemed to be sprayed across my field of vision and the tang of blood filled my mouth. I felt the grit of sand and dirt impacting upon my face only distantly as I fell to unconsciousness.
It was only then that the true inner mystery of Mookalakapeekapo was made evident to me, and the very course of my noble life was changed forevermore...
TO BE CONTINUED! .